The Lok Sabha election to the Vellore constituency in Tamil Nadu was cancelled Tuesday by the Election Commission (EC) two days ahead of the polling following recovery of huge amount of cash allegedly from an associate of a DMK leader recently.
A government notification rescinding the polls said the EC was "fully satisfied that the current electoral process in Vellore has been seriously vitiated on account of unlawful activities of certain candidates and some workers of the political party."
Perhaps, this is the first time election to a Lok Sabha constituency has been cancelled over use of money power.
The byelection to RK Nagar Assembly seat in Tamil Nadu was cancelled in April 2017 following similar seizure of huge cash, allegedly meant for bribing voters.
The cancellation of the poll, scheduled for April 18 along with 38 other constituencies in the state, evoked sharp reactions from the DMK which alleged it was an attempt by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to "besmirch" the party using the Election Commission.
"It is a murder of democracy. Modi has planned to wreck the polls by allegedly misusing the Enforcement Directorate, CBI, Income Tax and the Election commission," DMK president M K Stalin told reporters in Tiruchirappalli.
DMK Treasurer Duraimurugan, whose son Kathir Anand is the party candidate in Vellore seat, told PTI that cancelling the poll was a "murder of democracy."
Allies of the DMK also condemned the cancellation of the poll.
Ruling AIADMK demanded that Anand be disqualified from contesting the poll instead of cancelling the election.
The EC notification said in the commission's considered opinion conducting the poll in Vellore in such a vitiated atmosphere would "severely jeopardise the conduct of free and fair election."
Hence, the commission recommended cancelling the polls to the government which was accepted and poll for Vellore seat was annulled.
President Ram Nath Kovind issued the order rescinding the polls by amending portions of the original poll notification that called the electorate in Vellore to elect a member to the Lok Sabha.
The EC took the decision after the district police had filed a complaint against Anand as well as two party functionaries on the basis of a report from the Income Tax department on April 10.
Anand was charged under the Representation of the People Act for giving "wrong information" in his election affidavit filed along with his nomination papers, the police have said. The other two, identified as Srinivasan and Damodaran, were booked under bribery charges.
A copy of the official notification cancelling polls in Vellore was released here by Tamil Nadu Chief Electoral Officer Satyabrata Sahoo.
On March 30, Income Tax officials had conducted searches at the residence of Anand's father Durai Murugan over suspected use of unaccounted money for electioneering, and seized Rs. 10.50 lakh which was alleged "excess" cash.
Two days later, tax officials said they had seized Rs 11.53 crore from a cement godown belonging to a DMK leader's associate in the same district.
"Cash stuffed in cartons and gunny bags neatly packed for ward and division-wise distribution were unearthed,"officials had said.
Murugan, however, had said he had not concealed anything. Questioning the timing of the Income Tax department's operation, he had alleged that the raids were a "conspiracy" by certain political leaders who could not face them in the electoral arena.